Recently posts may have been a bit slow and uninspired - I’ve been fretting over posting something as personal as this. But given some of the inconsequential crap that has often been the basis for my posts, not writing something here about a subject so important seems somehow dishonest and disrespectful - apologies if it is uncomfortable to read:
My Easter bank holiday was – and I can’t think of any other way of putting this – a fucking nightmare. My mum, in her 80’s, housebound with chronic arthritis for the past 18months and cared for by my dad, rapidly developed some mental problems over the course of a couple of weeks. So I went over to see them - and made a decision that my dad simply couldn’t cope anymore. We called an ambulance and she was carried out screaming - possibly the last time she will ever leave her home. After a weekend spent in the observation ward attached to the A&E department – during which various doctors argued about whose responsibility she was – she was finally admitted to a specialist geriatric psych unit.
That was getting on for three weeks ago and she is still there for assessment – we haven’t been told yet if it is depression, delirium or dementia or what we can expect to happen. But I have experienced an insidious shift towards acceptance of a situation that a month ago was unthinkable. Occasionally this is interrupted by hope I can ‘get her back’ - but more often by guilt that I have come to terms with the fact that I won’t.
When I see her she is by turns subdued, angry, frightened, depressed, delusional and aggressive. Whatever she is – she is not is the person that I knew: The mother and wife. The woman with a passion for life and fun and an intense sense of justice, - strong-willed and independent. A career woman before her time, she left school at 16 to work as a lab technician in wartime and went on to train as a school teacher in the pioneering days of comprehensive schools and special needs (or remedial as it was then) education … and I’m already writing this as an obituary because it’s hard to believe that that person is still there.
As an unswerving atheist I often find that the writings of Marcus Aurelius are a source of humanist comfort and wisdom. Not so when I remember how he identified the ‘self’: ‘A little flesh, a little breath, and a Reason to rule all - that is myself’… and by implication when that has gone, what is left?